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First (Amendment) Issue: Dunbier talks “Liberty Comics”

by  in Comic News Comment
First (Amendment) Issue: Dunbier talks “Liberty Comics”
“Liberty Comics” on sale July 23 (Pictured: Mike Mignola cover)

The job of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund isn’t an easy or glamorous one, but it’s one of the most important organizations in comics. The non-profit exists to defend creators, publishers and other comics related entities against wrongful prosecutions of their first amendment rights, and does so with the help of donations from comics readers and professionals.

The CBLDF also raises donations through auctions and special projects, like the upcoming and aptly named “Liberty Comics.” Featuring a wide array of top comic book talent donating their time for the worthy cause, the 32-page, full color anthology will be published by Image Comics and goes on sale for $3.99 on July 23, just in time for Comic-Con International in San Diego. Contributors include Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson, Darwyn Cooke, Mark Millar & John Paul Leon, Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Art Adam, Rick Veitch and Mark Evanier & Sergio Aragones, with covers by Mike Mignola and J. Scott Campbell.

The man tasked with putting together this book is former Wildstorm Executive Editor and current Special Projects Manager for IDW Publishing, Scott Dunbier, who CBR News spoke with to find out what readers will find inside “Liberty Comics” and why working with the CBLDF is important to him.

Scott, tell us about who’ll be contributing “Liberty Comics.”

Sure, the run down looks like:

  • Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson did a “The Boys” story.
  • Darwyn Cooke is contributing a story.
  • Mark Millar wrote a Dracula story that John Paul Leon drew.
  • There’s a “Criminal” story by Ed Bruabker and Sean Phillips.
  • There’s a two-page “Monkeyman & O’Brien” spread by Art Adams.
  • J. Bone did a one-page story and Rick Veitch turned in a great “Brat Pack” page.

There will also be several one-pagers written by Mark Evanier and drawn by Serigo Aragones. These interludes will be between the stories and they will deal with some of the first amendment issues that have arisen over the years and cases the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has defended. And of course it will be done with a humorous bent from Mark & Sergio and, in fact, they’re the hosts of these vignettes.

“Liberty Comics” on sale July 23 (Pictured: J. Scott Campbell cover)

You’ve also lined up some big name cover artists for “Liberty Comics,” haven’t you?

Yeah, we have two really nice covers. Jeff Capmbell did a Danger Girl cover for us, and Mike Mignola supplied a Hellboy one. The Mignola cover has a fun story. I called up Mike about this and he instantly agreed to do it. We talked about what the image would be and he said, “I don’t know anything about the first amendment, what the hell am I going to do?” Since Mike is renowned for putting statues in his work, I suggested adding the three monkeys. He liked that, but when I got the cover Mike improved on the idea — he kept the three monkeys in it, but on the bottom he drew in a Hellboy logo and crossed out the word “Hell” and put Heck on top of it — brilliant!

What is the work involved in putting together a project like this?

It starts out with the initial contacts. Just talking to people and getting them to agree to it. I was lucky because I had enough lead time where I could get people to say yes before they really realized they’d have to eventually do the work! It really is mostly a matter of getting people to commit to it and then making sure all the ducks are in a row. In a way it’s almost like working on five different books — albeit very short ones. Most of the stories are in the four-to-five page range. Tracking them down can sometimes be a chore, but everyone’s committed to getting the work done and having the book come out on time, which is obviously of the utmost importance.

Between you and CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein, you know everyone in the industry. Which of you went out and sought out the talent for “Liberty Comics?”

I did, just started making phone calls.

Did you have anyone saying no to your requests?

Everybody wanted to contribute, but not everybody had time. Warren Ellis really wanted to do something, but at the end of the day he just couldn’t make it. Same thing with Brian K. Vaughan. Matt Wagner felt very bad about turning it down. They were all very gracious and told me if we do another one they’d definitely be interested in contributing. You know, you can’t get everybody for every book. I’m obviously thrilled with the guys who stepped up for this one.

It sounds like you’ve got the basis for a very good follow-up book already. Is that something you’ve begun discussing, an eye towards a series of annuals?

Yes, we’ve talked about making it a regular event, but it’s a lot of work — let’s see how the first one works out and then we’ll look to the future, but it’s something we’ve discussed.

Why is it important to you to be involved with the CBLDF?

The CBLDF and the Hero Initiative are two charities that are very close to my heart. The Hero Initiative helps out a lot of cartoonists who are in desperate and dire need. With the CBLDF, it’s a little dicier — it really is about what you can and cannot read and the idea that someone can arbitrarily decide what we can and cannot read is very offensive to me. That’s a very scary notion.

“Liberty Comics” seems like something of an evergreen book — it could potentially sell forever. Have you considered a high print-run and warehousing the book until it sells out?

That’s been discussed, but I’ll leave that decision to Charles Brownstein and Eric Stephenson at Image, but that makes sense to me. It seems like the kind of book that could be left in print and continue to sell. And if we do continue to produce more of them on a roughly annual schedule, we can do a nice collection down the road.

Has there been any discussion of a “Liberty Comics” auction, taking all of this content and selling it off?

Some of the stuff in the book will be auctioned, but not all of it. It’s up to each artist. On a related note, some great guys have promised to do new pieces of art for the CBLDF auction at Comic-Con International.

Is there an eye towards a specific monetary goal with this comic?

One Million Dollars! [laughs] I don’t know, really. I have no idea what to expect. I’d like to see orders of over 30,000. I don’t know if that’s realistic or not for this kind of a book. I hope the book is over printed and, again this is up to Charles and Eric, but I think it will do pretty well over time. I hope there are lots of copies available at San Diego — I think at the show it will be a great book for people to go around with and get autographed. If you think about it, so many artists have sketchbooks now that cost 10 or 20 dollars. This is an all new, 32 page color comic for four bucks. And by absolutely wonderful creators — buy it and get a lot of them to sign it for you.

What is Image Comics’ role in “Liberty Comics?”

They’re the publisher of the comic. Everything will be delivered to them camera ready. Richard Starkings has graciously donated design time to the project. He and John J.G. Roshell have been doing a lot of work on the book. The covers were designed by J.G. and the interiors will be designed by Richard and J.G. Actually, I’d like to point out that every single person involved has donated their time and talents to this cause. Obviously all the high profile people, the artists and writers. But also the colorists, the letterers, the designers, production person. All have spent their very valuable time to work on this book.

Now discuss this story in CBR’s Image Comics forum.

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